Sunday, February 18, 2018

Emmett Brickhouse Has Close Call When Car Stalls on RR Tracks, 1935

“Train Wrecks His Auto But He Escapes Alive,” from the Elizabeth City Independent, Feb. 8, 1935

Like a horrible nightmare was the experience which befell Emmett Brickhouse, 37-year-old Elizabeth City Hosiery Mill night foreman, who leaped from his stalled automobile just a second before the car was struck by a southbound Norfolk Southern passenger train at the Parsonage Street crossing Tuesday morning at 11:15 o’clock.

“I hardly know what happened,” said Brickhouse in describing the near-tragedy to a reporter for this newspaper shortly after the crash. “The car was cold and it sort of choked down when I got on the railroad tracks. I looked and saw the train bearing right down on me. I reckon I opened the door and jumped out just as quick as I could but it all happened so quick that I can’t hardly remember how I got out of the car. Anyhow, my foot hadn’t been off the running board more than one or two seconds before the train hit the car. It was an awful shock, and I’m telling you it’s a terrible experience to be face to face with Death like I was.”

Brickhouse works at the hosiery mill but lives on the Brite farm at the end of Weymouth Road. He usually sleeps mornings until 10 or 11 o’clock. Tuesday morning he started to town around 11 o’clock. He stopped for a few minutes at Weatherly & Riggs Market on the north side of Parsonage Street, extended, just west of the railroad tracks. The southbound Norfolk Southern passenger train was already blowing for the passenger station when he left the market at 11:15 o’clock, but he was talking to someone outside the market and did not notice the whistle., stepping into his Ford sedan, he started to cross the railroad tracks in front of him without looking to see whether a train was coming.

Just as the car mounted the ridge on which the tracks are laid, the engine choked down. Brickhouse’s foot reached for the starter, and his hand sought the choke. Just at that moment he sensed danger and looked round him to see the train headed straight for him. He was paralyzed with fright for a brief moment, but the impending danger spurred him into action and he lost no time in opening the door and jumping to safety. A witness said he would have been killed had he been a moment longer in getting out of the car.

The train hit the Ford broadside and carried it down the tracks for a distance of about 200 yards before spilling it over into the ditch that runs alongside Skinners Avenue, parallel to the railroad. The car was almost a total wreck.

Brickhouse sustained no injury but the incident was such a shock to his nervous system that he had to go to bed shortly afterwards.

“I am a careful driver,” said Brickhouse, “and I have never figured in any accidents. I had not driven my Ford more than 30 miles an hour all the while I owned it. It makes me sick to think that a driver as careful as I usually am lost my car and nearly lost my life in an accident like this.”

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